The Vikings assigned cornerback Xavier Rhodes to cover Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. on Monday night, an approach that worked well for the Vikings and for Rhodes. On Tuesday, coach Mike Zimmer explained the rationale for moving Rhodes out of his potential comfort zone.
“We have evidence that [Rhodes] can play both sides and that’s always a good thing,” Zimmer told reporters a day after Minnesota’s 24-10 win. “You see guys do it in practice, but you never really know. I don’t know why but corners tend to get comfortable playing one side or the other. The way they break and do things, they tend to get comfortable. So if you have evidence they can do it I think it allows to do things. He wasn’t covering him one-on-one all night, it wasn’t like that. He came out of the game some. [Terence] Newman went over there. Hopefully we mix up the coverages that we played a little bit.”
It’s a smart approach. Ultimately, guys like Josh Norman and Richard Sherman stay on one side of the formation because they’re comfortable there. Making them move around keeps them from getting so comfortable that they don’t want to move.
It happens on both sides of the ball, with receivers and defensive backs. Often, it’s an issue at the Pro Bowl, where a glut of players who play one specific spot at receiver or corner have to figure out who will play in his preferred location, and who won’t.
In today’s NFL, versatility is the key, for any player. As Rhodes gains notices as one of the top defensive backs in the game, his ability to move around will help him maintain that status, and to build upon it.